Rewind two weeks. To the Liverpool game and the face of a 25-year-old sat on the bench, ostracised by his manager because of a falling out the pair have had. Rightly or wrongly, Paul Pogba hardly showed up for two and a bit seasons under José Mourinho, and for whatever reason it was we can merely speculate, but watching him accumulating splinters in his arse for 90 minutes as the Manchester United midfield struggled to create anything like an opening was a bitter indictment of his time so far. Fast forward to Boxing Day, and the dancing, smiling figure on the Old Trafford turf left a lasting impression – Paul Pogba was purring, and it should be a sign of things to come.
The way to gauge whether this could be a permanent upturn or just a passing fling takes some digging. Pogba started in superb fashion, and his goal against Swansea in the early stages of his second chance at United gave us all a lip-smacking taste of the player we were about to see. But relations with his manager broke down, and somewhere, something turned sour and everyone was to suffer. Reports of feuds and harsh words became commonplace and soon public, as Sky Sports News cameras captured Mourinho dealing out some discipline to the Frenchman at a training session before he had so much as jogged a single lap. Whether you agree or not, Pogba stopped playing for Jose and had his reasons why.
Something that might have helped the midfielder keep interest in showing his best for his club was his role within the side. He spoke publicly of the need to attack, as per The Telegraph, taken as an offensive stand against Mourinho, was perhaps his way of pointing out the way to get the best out of him. A theory backed up with his last 2 showings, Pogba is never as useless as when he doesn’t have a forward pass available or when he is tasked with playing defensively. Mourinho is a conservative manager who specialises in building a solid defensive unit and playing from that, the chalk to Pogba’s cheese. This “creative difference” was turned into a dividing rod amongst fans with many seeing the players failings as a lack of ability or poor attitude, and the other portion (correctly) pointing out he was asked to do something he wasn’t comfortable with. Perhaps both sides have their merits, in actuality it is the latter who are on to something much closer to the truth.
So all of this leaves us at today, after two certainly improved showings with 2 goals and 2 assists in both. Still the divide stands, still there are people who label him a “disgrace” and a “clown” for apparently only just turning up for work now. It is an incredibly draconian way of viewing the situation surrounding the undoubtedly talented player United have on their hands, ignorant to the cold, hard facts of the matter.
Solskjaer may only be in temporary charge but he may have found the permanent fix to an £89m problem in his first two days with all of the same tools as his predecessor. With Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera asked to sit and defend, Pogba didn’t need to worry about that side of things (barring in a tactical sense) and with the introduction of width in the final third and runners beyond him, he had the capabilities around him to finally flourish from nearly-man into lynchpin.
Love him or loath him, hate the dancing or relish a young man expressing himself and having fun, you cannot deny the potential ability he has to offer. He simply needed a key to unlock the box. The lid is off, I expect it will be a glorious 6 months and beyond.